“We’ll find it, Harry!” Hermione assured him as he stalked through the Gryffindor common room. “We’ve only been looking for two weeks and this is a big castle!”
Harry spun towards her, red faced and angry. “It isn’t good enough!”
“Harry…” Ron’s voice was laced with fury as it broke through his livid mood. “We will find it. We’ve covered a lot of the castle.”
“But what if it isn’t here?” Harry demanded sharply. “What if he didn’t manage to hide one in the castle?”
Hermione threw her hands in the air. “Then we’ll know that it isn’t here and we’ll look somewhere else!” She moved purposely towards him, dodging a couch and small end table to get to him. Pulling his face towards her, she met him nose-to-nose… although Harry was stooped a bit. He would have raged further but the look in her eyes kept him silent. “It isn’t your fault, Harry.”
Five small words… five words that shouldn’t have effected as much as they did. It took a moment before Harry let go of his anger and dropped slowly to his knees on the floor, the mangled Daily Prophet tumbling from his slackened fist. “I know…” he managed to whisper, ignoring the moving pictures of a burning London.
“We’re doing the best we can, mate,” Ron said reassuringly as he came to sit next to Harry and Hermione. “We break only to eat and sleep. We’ve covered most of the bottom half of the castle.”
“If it comes to it, we can even check the chamber,” Hermione added softly, pushing the paper out of the way.
Harry glanced up at her, trying to keep the anger and grief from his face. “How many more will die before I try to kill him?” Snatching up the paper, he showed them the picture, not sure what he was trying to prove, but words couldn’t express how he felt. “The entire Muggle Ministry is dead!”
“I KNOW!” Hermione yelled, finally losing it. Picking up the paper, she balled it up and leaning over the back of the couch, chucked it into the fireplace where it instantly went up in flames. Rounding on him, her face full of ire, she continued to shout. “I KNOW! My parents are there, Harry! Here I am, not able to protect them! Even if I were there, it probably wouldn’t matter! I am angry and sad about Kingsley’s death too! YOU DON’T NEED TO EXPLAIN TO US HOW DIFFICULT THIS IS!”
Harry bit back his instant retort, instead choosing to look towards Ron. He knew that Hermione was hurting too, and it wouldn’t do any good to lash out at her. His best mate’s face was full of rage, but he didn’t say a word, just met his eyes steadily as Harry told him what he’d read in the article. “Over a thousand people are dead so far… and the fighting hasn’t stopped yet.”
In the moment of meeting his friend’s blue eyes, he knew that Ron was thinking the same thing that he was.
Apparently, Hermione did as well. “We’re going to continue to look for the Horcruxes!” Her voice was like molten steel as she unwittingly drew them back to her. Grabbing their hands, she squeezed tightly, begging them to see reason. “You can’t go to London!”
“We can help your parents!” Ron told her, already starting to move.
“NO!” Hermione tugged him back down so that he landed with a soft thump. “My parents know that if something happens that they’re to leave the country.”
Both boys’ mouths fell open. “Wha?”
Hermione’s lip trembled gently but she kept speaking. “I… I have an aunt in Germany, my mother’s sister. I told them that… that if things got dangerous that they were to leave and not come back.”
In that instant, Harry fully came to appreciate how difficult this was for Hermione. The Weasley’s were at least wizards and could protect themselves. There was no love lost for Harry’s Muggle family. He doubted that he would feel more than a tinge of sadness at their deaths because Harry’s remaining family was not the people he was related to by blood.
Hermione, however, loved her mum and dad and yet, she had willing left her parents without any magical protection… giving them the only thing that they could do, escape. She’d done this to chase after Voldemort with him. “Hermione…” and there was nothing for it. He pulled her into his arms and held on tight.
“We’ll get through this, Harry, and at the end you’re going to kill him.” Her voice was muffled against his shoulder but her words were sure.
“Okay,” Harry replied, and then jumped as the portrait hole swung open violently. They gazed up at McGonagall’s ashen face.
“Ah, I see you’ve heard,” she said softly, noting their downtrodden expression. “I just wanted to make sure that you three knew.”
They all nodded and Ron spoke up first. “Has the Ministry gotten control of it yet?”
Her lips compressed briefly before she answered, coming fully into the common room and closing the portrait. “No… I’m afraid we’ve suffered heavy casualties. The last report that Tonks had was that several Aurors had been killed… Kingsley was among them since he’s been working with the Muggle Prime Minister.”
“The Prime Minister…” Hermione voice trailed off. The Daily Prophet article had been rushed and vague. It was clear that they wanted to spread the word as fast as they could.
“He’s dead, I’m afraid,” McGonagall replied. “Most of their government is gone.”
Hermione buried her face in her hands as Ron ran a hand along her back.
“Thanks… for letting us know,” Harry said slowly, getting to his feet. “We, uh… we have work to do, Professor.”
She nodded in understanding and clapped a hand on his shoulder. “I understand, Potter. Do see that you stay the course.”
“We will,” he answered as she nodded once and then left. After she was gone, Harry turned back to his friends. Every fiber of his body was humming with raw, intense energy. “We are going to find that Horcrux.”
“I think…” Ron said slowly, “that we might have been going about this backwards.”
Hermione looked up at him, cocking her head to the side. “What do you mean?”
He shrugged, but his eyes were taking on that gleam that usually came out only during a Chess match. “When would he have hidden it?”
She answered instantly. “After he left school, of course. The diary and the ring were the ones that we can be sure he had before he left school.”
Harry swore loudly as the thoughts in his head coalesced. “I know when he hid it!” They waited patiently for him to answer and Harry couldn’t believe it wasn’t obvious to him before… but then again, they hadn’t seen it in the pensive as he had. “When he came for his interview with Dumbledore!”
“But… that would mean he’d probably have hidden it along the route-” Hermione scrambled to her feet and grabbed her notebook from the top of the couch, before following Harry and Ron out the door.
No words were needed between them as they hurried down to the Entrance Hall, skidding to a halt before the old oak doors.
“I think we should map the route first, then figure out what places along it would be best to check,” Hermione offered as she began scribbling quickly in her book with a self-inking quill.
“Right, so he’d have come in this way,” Ron said as he began to walk down the hall. Stopping suddenly, he spun and looked at Harry and Hermione with a strangled expression on his face. “D’you know… we’re walking in the same path as him?”
It wasn’t that they hadn’t done it before on many occasions and in different locations but just as quickly as it had hit Ron it hit Harry. They were treading where the greatest evil on the planet had once been.
Not an all-together pleasant thought.
They made their way up the marble staircase, all the way to the seventh floor, passing many possibilities that Hermione was taking note of before reaching the statue of Lachlan the Lanky, at the top of the stairs. On his right was the portrait of the Fat Lady, who was eyeing them wearily.
“Well that was a short trip!” she called to them, but they continued on down the hall.
“Sorry!” Hermione called over her shoulder to her. “We’ll be back later!” The Fat Lady harrumphed at that.
The corridor led them through much of the upper parts of the castle, past the moving tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy, and on to the tower that lead to the Head’s office.
They reached the gargoyle and stopped. “So?” Harry asked Hermione.
“I have about fifty places that it could be and those are just the obvious ones,” was her reply as she continued to scribble away.
Harry looked down the corridor and remembered how he had run into Tonks as she had come to check in with Dumbledore last year. It seemed as though it was years back, instead of just a few months ago. He’d been so obsessed with figuring out what Malfoy was hiding in the Room of Requirement- oh bloody hell…. “I know where he hid it,” Harry said softly before sprinting back down the hall towards the tapestry of the dancing trolls.
“Harry!” Ron and Hermione called after him as he stood facing the blank wall. “You don’t know that it’s here! Voldemort probably didn’t know that the room was here!” Hermione argued, “And even if it is, which room would it have gone in?”
Despite her doubts it made perfect sense to him now. “Voldemort went to the interview thinking he wouldn’t get the job and that he would need to hide the Horcrux quickly. He probably had it on him! I mean… why else would he interview when he knew he wouldn’t get the job?” He felt like he was on a roll now and the scenario continued to come together. “When Voldemort didn’t get the job, he left the office and headed down this passage! He would have been watched,” Harry said, turning his manic eyes towards them. “He’d need to think very quickly of a place to hide it… some place that he knew it wouldn’t be found!”
They still looked skeptical, so Harry started to move. “When Voldemort thinks and reasons, he paces! I have watched him do it!” Harry began to think and say out loud what he was thinking, “I need a place to hide something to keep it safe… I need a place to hide something to keep it safe… I need a place to hide something to keep it safe.”
On his third pass, he turned to face the wall and saw, to his satisfaction that a door had materialized. “What if,” Harry said, looking on at the door, “he had found the room on accident and he was desperate? Many people have found this room, not really knowing what it was. I hid Snape’s book in here last year, so I wouldn’t get caught with it. That’s how I saw the vanishing cabinet…”
“Blimey…” Ron whistled. “I believe you, mate. I think this is it.”
Harry and Ron looked to Hermione who had a small smile on her face. “Yes… yes that makes a lot of sense. All right, let’s start looking.” Reaching for the door handle, she pulled it open and then gasped.
The room was filled to the brim, just as Harry had remembered it to be.
“Oh my…” Hermione said before sighing heavily. “This could take awhile.”
“Or… it could be simple,” Harry added as he pulled out his wand and prayed that this time it would work. “Accio Horcrux!”
Ron chuckled and wended his way into the full room. “Good try, though, mate. It would have saved us searching through this room.” Stopping at a rather hideous sculpture of a peacock, he turned and asked, “Do you think we should have Dobby help us look through here?”
“No!” Hermione said sternly just as Harry replied with, “Good idea!”
“It would make the work faster, Hermione!” Harry reminded her. “We don’t have a lot of time!”
Hermione only shook her head as she pulled the door closed behind her. She stepped over a cauldron and picked up a blood red vase. “We are going to have to examine everything in this room for a magical signature, one that is so strong that it could only be a Horcrux and if Voldemort placed a trap on it before leaving, which he likely did, then it could kill Dobby if he touched it. We have to search through everything carefully.”
“Okay,” Ron pointed his wand at the sculpture and muttered the incantation. “Clean,” was his only response. “Where should I put it?”
“Vanish it,” Harry told him. “It’s all junk in here anyway.”
“Evanesco,” Ron said carelessly as the ugly bird disappeared. “Well,” he grimaced as he looked around the room. “One down, about five million to go.”
The afternoon drug on for them in a cloud of dust, many lame jokes at the stupid things they uncovered and several battles with inanimate objects that probably originated from Fred and George.
By evening the front of the room barely had a dent in it and they were exhausted. Harry fell into a broken armchair, yelling instantly when he bottom collided with something hard and pointed. Tugging on it revealed a mechanical pencil complete with attached prosthetic hand.
“What is that?!” Ron asked as he took the pencil and hauled it up to examine.
Hermione sneezed once, rubbing her forehead and leaving a trail on along her face that had just been coated in dirt. “It’s probably a prank from a Muggle shop.”
Their voices were lolling, Harry realized. He could listen to them for hours and not have to take in a word… usually they were fighting anyway, and he was so exhausted. Leaning back in the chair, Harry felt himself slip into a trance like daze.
The scene before him was utter chaos. Buildings were burning; blood ran through the streets like rainwater after a summer storm. The city was in shambles. All was what it should be, but his objectives were still not met and after so many deaths, it should be done by now.
“We can’t find him, my Lord,” a sniveling voice said from behind him.
“What do you mean?” was the cold, quiet response.
The man behind him coughed, but he did not turn to look at him. He didn’t want to look into his eyes yet. “We… we tried to find him but he’s escaped the Ministry. We’re still look-”
“Shut up you incompetent fool!” The rage was flooding through him at the morons that he had to put up with. It wasn’t enough that he had lost several of his best to the Aurors over the past two days but now they could not even locate the one former Auror that he really wanted to see dead.
His wrath was building with every second that Scrimgeour remained a viable opponent. “You will find him!”
“Y-yes my Lord,” was his pathetic response.
Finally he turned and glowered down at the pitiful wreck of a man before him. “No more mistakes,” he said slowly, enunciating every syllable.
His servant shook his head, looking down at his feet.
It wasn’t enough… he had to show him that he wouldn’t tolerate failure any longer.
Harry jumped to his feet, tripping over a pillow and falling flat on his face, writhing in pain as he clutched at his head.
It was as if he’d never practiced a single minute in Occlumency. Rolling onto his side, Harry vomited through the pain that was threatening to split his head in two. Hermione cleaned him up instantly and moved behind him to cradle his head.
“Harry… what did you see?” Her voice floated through the haze as the pain began to ebb. Harry held up his arm, trying to sit up but couldn’t manage. His entire body felt as though he himself had been under the torturous curse.
Ron took hold of his arm, and slowly pulled him upright. “What was it?”
“Voldemort…” Harry spit out, nearly gagging again from the taste in his mouth. His hair was sweat soaked and plastered to his forehead.
“This shouldn’t have happened!” Hermione’s worry was soaking into her tone. She helped him scoot back against the armchair so he had support before going on. “Voldemort was blocking Harry out and Harry’s been practicing Occlumency for months now! It’s been over a year since they were connected like this!”
Harry knew why, though… “angry… wants… kill… Scrimgeour… missing….” It was all he could do to get those words out, but it seemed to be enough. When he attempted to open his eyes, the pain in his head only got worse.
Ron was on his feet and heading for the door. “I’ll warn McGonagall!”
Hermione was silent for several minutes before she finally took his hand. “Harry?”
He nodded slightly to show he was listening.
“Do you want to go to Madam Pomfrey?”
“In… a bit,” he muttered, waiting for his strength to come back. More than likely he wouldn’t be able to move until Ron had reappeared and helped to hoist him off the floor. Most of his muscles were refusing to work.
She seemed to sense this. “I can levitate-”
“No!” he spit out, and he shook his head. Finally he got one eye opened and he looked into her concerned face. “That… would be….”
A small smile graced her lips and she nodded. “We’ll just wait for Ron, then.”
“Thanks…” leaning his head back, he closed his eye again, but made sure that he didn’t slip back into sleep. Voldemort had been very angry, but Harry also knew how dangerous it was to open himself up for more attacks. It wouldn’t be inconceivable, either, for Voldemort to have realized that Harry was in his head.
He was going to have to redouble his efforts at protecting his mind.
“Potter…” McGonagall’s harassed words came through loud and clear. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah,” Harry assured her as he let Ron help him to his feet. Fortunately with every minute he seemed to regain a bit of his ability to speak. When he was finally facing her, he asked, “Can you alert the Order? Keep him safe?” As much as he disliked Scrimgeour, Harry didn’t want the man dead. The world was in upheaval without the Wizarding leader being assassinated.
“I warned Tonks about it,” McGonagall explained as she led the way out of the cluttered room. “She will make sure that the proper authorities are notified, but I imagine that the Minister is already aware of the situation.” The way the old headmistress used the word minister told Harry clearly what she thought about him. “Hospital wing,” was her next command and it broached no argument.
Write a Review Harry Potter and the Final Flame: Chapter 19: Follow You Home